Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – movie review

by James Robins / 25 June, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Jurassic World movie review

The creatures – and the franchise – are in mortal danger as the island home of the brontosaurus erupts.

Isla Nublar, setting of Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 Jurassic film, is going kaput. A once-dormant volcano is spilling ash over the jungle, and its dinosaur locals are about to become Cretaceous barbecue.

The looming extinction is, we’re helpfully told, “the flashpoint animal rights issue of our time”. Damn the battery hens – the brontosauruses need rescuing! The US government, perhaps understandably, would prefer to let them all roast. An “act of God”, they call it, which doesn’t bode well for any insurance claims. On the other side of the debate is Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has performed an amazing about-face in the three years since Jurassic World, the last in the series: from shameless abuser of dino-labour to righteous campaigner for the poor creatures, as if they were cuddly pandas.

At this point in Fallen Kingdom, I’m on the government’s side. The last thing you want to see on your weekly grocery trip is a tyrannosaur gnashing its way through the local deli. And has Claire not seen the previous movies? Being friendly to dinosaurs doesn’t end well. They tend to spit in your face. Or eat it.

Nevertheless, with philanthropist backing, Claire is bound for Isla Nublar with “beefcake” raptor-wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) in a bid to save some sample species. These scenes come early in the picture, and it’s essentially a long chase sequence, the gang facing twin threats of carnivores and encroaching lava. It climaxes with a striking moment of pathos, the last surviving creature stranded on a pier wreathed in smoke as their ship sails to safety.

And that’s where Fallen Kingdom’s thrills end. From here on out, we’re mired in a tedious plot about militarisation and exploitation already explored in the previous picture. Toby Jones as a smug profiteer can’t enliven the action, either – even when his Trump-like mane flaps about in the blast of a raptor’s scream.

At the very least, Jurassic World offered a kind of meta-critique: nobody was awed by dinosaurs any more, and the park’s creators needed to invent a more terrifying beast to rouse a paying audience. The point was rammed home when that film was one of the highest-grossing of 2015. There’s no such irony present now.

And still, what every sequel since Jurassic Park has failed to grasp is that these dinosaurs – whether computer generated or animatronic – are not just animals with scary teeth to be feared. They are objects of wonder, and of hubris.

Video: Universal Pictures

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★1/2

This article was first published in the June 30, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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